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Harold Hamm, sharecropper to oil and fracking tycoon


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  • The U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia and Russia as the No. 1 oil producer in the world in 2015. Harold Hamm — a sharecropper's son — has been a key player in a phenomenal oil boom.

During high school he worked 50-60 hours at the Potter Oil Company and after graduating, started his own company — Harold Hamm Tank Truck Service — with a single bobtail Ford truck. Next came the Shelly Dean Oil Company, which Hamm began in 1967: “… my first hit came when I was 25, in 1971, when I made my first find — in the Oswego formation, in Northwest Oklahoma,” he tells Forbes. “… I drilled the Eldon Cook No. 2, my first well. It was a success, producing about 20 barrels of oil an hour. My concept was strictly amateur at the time, but it was a good idea. It still produces, and paid all the bills. It turned out to be the 6-million-barrel Oakdale field … The second well was a wildcat 5 miles from production. It produced 75 barrels of oil per hour, and everyone took notice.”

Hamm’s first oil company morphed into the present Continental Resources and the past decade saw him leap from millionaire to billionaire. (Hamm is often the object of a media circus as he may soon break all records with the most expensive divorce in history. Rupert Murdoch set the mark at $1.7 billion in June of 2013; Hamm’s wife, Sue Ann, may get much more.)

It’s been 40 years since the benchmark OPEC embargo, yet the U.S. is now producing more oil than it imports, and the unlikely path carved out by Hamm — from cotton field to oil field — is integral to the tale.

For more on the fracking explosion and Hamm’s story, see The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters


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Image from Wikimedia Commons, Joshua Doubek


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